On Roan Plateau
The road is dirt
and wide enough for two, but we're alone.
(We'll meet one pickup truck per hour,
and wave as if we know exactly what we're doing.)
We've come to see it before the drills descend.
On Cow Creek Road
our trusty Subaru crowds through green aspen,
climbs and climbs
and climbs into the overcast.
We could look down on trees
if clouds weren't in between.
The rocky, brushy landscape ends
just yards beside our wheels,
and who knows what toothed monster
might rear up from the white?
No doubt if we stepped out
into the fog, we'd drop
like screaming rocks.
We drive the convoluted road,
drive and drive,
and drive through little conferences of cows,
who stare at us and give way sullenly,
the young ones frisking near the cliffs,
It's said wildlife abounds up here-deer, elk,
But all we spy are mini-chipmunks
churning ditch to ditch.
The mist converts to rain, then lifts away.
We see and see
and see what's been there all along, 4000 feet below;
The vast valley, river-carved.
Traffic motes on thready paths.
Far horizons brimmed by mountains.
We've driven for two hours.
It's been raining softly
off, and mostly, on.
The dirt's dissolving into mud, and then
our way is blocked by gates.
We turn around, pining for a sign.
Tires throwing muck, a pickup truck--
we wave and wave
and wave, and ask a way out
from the nice young man who pulls even
to give us bad directions.
We never find his "slippery road to Rifle."
And so we drive, drive,
drive, retrace the route we came, worrying
that the greater gloom is night arriving,
while the road grows soupier,
and fog once more cloaks the void.
The Subaru slogs on.
The cows sigh and shove aside again.
The road unreels, sodden as a garden hose.
And here we are,
depending on gasoline to bring us out,
that came from someplace like the Roan Plateau.
Before the drills.